Young pre-ballet students often need help feeling the difference between pointed and flexed feet while they’re moving. They do fine with seated point-and-flex exercises in pike position, but moving around is a different story. In order to encourage preschool and kindergarten dancers to stretch and point their feet, I have devised “Princess Pointy-Feet,” a simple game that uses pointed and flexed feet.
I play ballet music and tell students that they are Princess (or Prince, if applicable) Pointy-Feet, who, in addition to being royalty, is a famous dancer. Everywhere she goes, she’s recognized by everyone because of her beautifully pointed feet.
She waves to everyone she meets, because she’s very polite. However, waving to everyone can get tiring, so she has a magic disguise. When she gets tired, she waves her magic wand and turns into Princess Flexy-Feet. This allows her to walk around without being recognized. When she’s ready to wave again, she changes back.
The children walk around the room, pointing their feet with each step, and use a simple port de bras to wave to all the imaginary people they encounter. They get “tired” and disguise themselves, walking with exaggeratedly flexed feet and making “sneaky” faces. Then they change back, pointing their feet again.
Mix it up by changing the speed of walking, adding turns or jumps, or changing quickly between “Pointy-Feet” and “Flexy-Feet.” You can also add fun props like hoops to jump in or scarves to wave.
Add drama to the game by giving Princess Pointy-Feet a more important reason to disguise herself. One scenario is that she’s hiding from a wicked wizard. The children take turns being the wizard, creating their own wizard dance to do while they look for pointing toes. If they find any, they turn that princess into a ballerina statue until the next wizard is appointed.
This can be a fun way to introduce the difference between pointed and flexed feet to students and to remind them to keep pointing those ballet feet.
Kids like dance because they like to move—with abandon, without thinking, like rolling down a hill or spinning like a helicopter. It’s a simple fact, but as we get caught up in teaching technique and drilling choreography, it’s one we often forget. Don’t. Here are some “movement madness” exercises to try with preschoolers through 10-year-olds.
For a modification of that old favorite, the “freeze dance,” spread out a gymnastic mat or two in the middle of the room. Everyone skips around the mat, jumping onto it when the music stops. Shout out fun instructions that everyone must follow on each freeze—keep one leg lifted, for example, or make a silly face.
Have everyone race across the room with crab walks, frog hops, or camel walks (hands and feet on the ground, legs and arms straight). Or pair everyone off and have them move across the room in a gigantic game of leapfrog.
Set up a pattern on the floor with Hula-Hoops. Students can begin by hopping through the pattern, in and out of the hoops. Switch so they’re leaping in (with one foot) and leaping out (with the other). Change it into an obstacle course by having a few students hold hoops upright so the others can crawl through them (as if through a mouse hole).
Create four vertical lines on the floor with tape or chalk. Find an up-tempo song with a steady beat (techno works well). Divide the students into four teams and assign each team to a line. One dancer hops to the end of the drawn/taped line, then skips back to the beginning, and the next dancer starts. Keep changing the hops—try one- or two-footed hops jumping right to left over the line; jumps in second position facing front, then back, then front; hops with a beat of the feet when in the air. It’s not a race; they return to the beginning of the line and wait their turn to go again, usually until the song is over or they look like they’re going to drop. Then I say “Great job!”